Tag Archives: fiction

Published / by SarahE / Leave a Comment

“Suppose time is a circle, bending back on itself. The world repeats itself, precisely, endlessly.” – Alan Lightman “Einstein’s Dreams”

I finished this book right before work this morning, which really sucks, because I was really emotional and this review would’ve been way different if I had been able to write it right away, but alas, 8 hours later you’re about to get the more subdued version.

I’m going to lay it all down right here: Rufus Weylin, Dana’s (the main character) slave owning, many times great grandpa, is one of the most despicable, horrifying characters I’ve ever had the displeasure to read about. I HATED this man. Loathed him. Couldn’t understand Dana’s feeling of connection with him. So let me back up and explain the plot.

Dana is a modern woman living is the 1970’s. She’s recently married to a white man, and they’ve just moved into their first house together. Everything’s fine until Dana spontaneously gets pulled (?) back into the early 1800’s Maryland. Maryland is a southern state, a slave state, and Dana is black. Why is this happening? Why this time, this place? Well, Dana’s great, great (piece of shit) grandpa Rufus is a bit of a klutz, and is constantly almost dying. Every time this happens, Dana gets pulled back and has to save his sorry ass. Although really tempting to let him just meet his fate, Dana cannot if she wants to continue existing.

Everything, the psychology of the slave, the psychology of the slave owner, women’s place as both slave and slave owner, the violence- everything was in this book. It was emotionally taut. A very fast read. Painful. What Dana was able to endure; I would never be strong enough to emulate. I could not have been beaten, or held against my will. I would’ve shriveled up into nothing. I tiny little nugget of my former self. Not Dana though, she kept it together. Endured Rufe…

Rufe… that shithead little snake of a man. How I HATED him. Wanted him dead. Why and how Dana? I could not. I hated Rufus more than I hated his father. At least with his father you knew what you were getting, but Rufus was a monster that pretended at times to me empathetic, but when he didn’t get his way he was even more dangerous.

I couldn’t recommend this book enough. It was so powerful. The writing was dated a bit, but the message was relevant. Will always be relevant. Our country was built on the back of slavery and murder. I hope we never forget that.

A Father Daughter Relationship: Don’t Say Aww

Published / by SarahE / Leave a Comment

 

“I abandoned her. It’s the one capital crime of fatherhood. Mothers can fail a thousand different ways. A father’s only job is: do not abandon this child.” – Catherynne M. Valente

This is one of those books that kept making me wonder what it would look like as a movie. Who would play Hawley, who could possibly play Loo? But really I hope they don’t make this a movie, because it’s too good, and like most books made into movies I hope people pick up the book rather than waiting for a movie.

I also like to keep books like these a secret, and when they make them into movies everyone knows about them, and they don’t feel like a secret anymore.

I gobbled this book up in three days. It was just marvelous. Loo has officially made my list of awesome female characters in literature 2017.

Loo is raised by her father. She is taught to shoot and she is taught to run. Her mother died when she was a baby. She drowned in a lake. That is all Loo knows about her mother, except for the few possessions and photos Loo’s father Hawley sets up in the bathroom of whatever motel they happen to be staying in. Loo enjoys her life on the road, but there are secrets, and Hawley is inscrutable. When Loo is twelve Hawley takes Loo to a small town in Massachusetts where her mother grew up and where her grandma still lives. They settle down in a small house. Hawley starts to fish. Loo goes to high school. Loo doesn’t make friends easily, and finds violence a more accessible way to deal with the people who bother her. One particular boy, Marshall, gets his fingers broken. Marshall never really leaves Loo alone though, despite the fingers, and as they get older their relationship becomes more romantic. After five years, Loo feels more settled, but Hawley still has secrets. Secrets that keep him closed off from her, and she wants to know what he’s been keeping from her all this time.

Marshall and Loo’s budding relationship was darling. There’s no other word for it, I even checked the thesaurus!

This story was written in alternating chapters between the past and present. The past was told through the bullets Hawley had been shot with. It starts with the first and works towards the twelfth. It was a clever way of telling Hawley’s story. I’m not giving too much away by saying we get to see how Hawley and Loo’s mother Lily meet, and how Lily dies…

If this had been a movie I would have bawled my eyes out.

Now the most important aspect of this book, of course, is the father daughter relationship. I’m not the person that thinks awwww look at that man raising that child all by himself. That is so cute. He’s such a good man… I’m not that person, because for real people women do that all the fudging time! Hawley was a very flawed man. But he raised Loo by himself for a while. He took her all over the country, and she got an education like not many other kids do. Was Loo better off living like this? That’s an impossible question. Loo was who she was. There are always an infinite number of choices we make that shape our lives, so Loo was a little girl raised by her criminal father and taught to shoot when she was twelve. She was unique. Hawley did a good job, and she loved him, and he was in her blood, and she was in his blood, and he was her father, and they loved each other. That’s what a parent has to do: love their child.

I love this kind of book! LOVE IT! She Rides Shotgun comes out in June, and the premise is similar, and I absolutely can’t wait to read it

Leap Day, and the End of Love

Published / by SarahE / Leave a Comment

February’s over at midnight tonight and I definitely didn’t read as many books this month as I had anticipated, but that’s okay, because I’m ending the month with a review of:

Where the Red Fern Grows

A movie that had a huge impact on my young, impressionable years, and after finally reading the book for the first time this month, it has now profoundly affected my adult years. This story is not for the faint of heart, and it’s for kids! What’s it trying to teach us? Work hard, have fun for a few minutes, and then expect to muddle through tragedy. This book is brutal!

LOVE: The DOG KIND

 


 

This story starts with a boy who wants two hounds. The dogs cost $50, which the boy can’t afford, so instead of hanging his head and giving up, the boy spends two years picking fruit and doing odd jobs in order to save enough money to buy his hounds.

He finally earns the $50, and his grandfather orders the dogs from a catalogue. The dogs arrive on a train, and Billy walks 30 miles barefoot to get the dogs. The dogs are small and beautiful and the boy carries them home in a sack on his back. The boy sees two names carved in a tree inside a heart on his walk home: Dan and Ann, so he decides to name his two little dogs Old Dan and Little Ann.

The walk home is long, so the boy and the two little dogs have to sleep in a cave overnight. During the night a mountain lion starts to cry and Old Dan goes to the mouth of the cave and answers its challenge.

Old Dan and Little Ann are small, but they prove to be very smart, unique dogs. They pick- up the art of the hunt quickly and start treeing coons with a relentless finesse that astounds everyone. During their first hunt they tree a wily coon that climbs the tallest tree in the riverbed. The boy promised the dogs he would kill the coon if they tree him, so he feels a great deal of obligation to get the coon out of the tree. He has two options: climb the tree or cut it down. He knows he can’t climb it, so he takes his small ax and cuts it down. It takes the boy three days, and the dogs never give up the coon in the tree. The raccoon doesn’t make it.

The boy’s grandfather and father believe that Dan and Ann are impressive enough to win a hunting competition, so they enter. The night before the competition the boy hears the screech of two owls, which is bad luck up in the mountains. The hounds impress everyone. Little Ann wins a beauty competition, and together they tree the most coons. On the last night the boy and his father, grandfather, and a judge are out with the dogs when a blizzard starts to fall. The dogs do not give up on the coon trail, so the boy is left with the awful decision between leaving his dogs, or getting stuck out in the snow looking for them. They stay and pursue the dogs, and find them in the morning running around a tree with a treed coon, nearly frozen. They win the competition, earn $300, and head home.

The screech of two owls forebodes bad luck, so here we go:

The boy is out on a hunt with his dogs when Old Dan stops and points up to a tree. Through the branches the boy sees the glowing yellow eyes of the mountain lion. The mountain lion old Dan had challenged that first night in the cave. The lion attacks and a fight ensues. Old Dan and Little Ann jump between the lion and the boy, and the lion deeply wounds both dogs. Unwilling to let the lion kill his dogs the boy attacks with his ax, while Little Ann grabs hold of the lions neck. Between the two of them, the lion is killed. Old Dan is gravely injured. The boy carries him home, and Old Dan dies soon after. Little Ann, after losing her partner stops eating, and wills herself to death on Old Dan’s grave.

The boy buries his dogs on a hill, and when he goes back to visit a red fern has grown between the two mounds.

“I had heard the old Indian legend about the red fern. How a little Indian boy and girl were lost in a blizzard and had frozen to death. I the spring, when they were found, a beautiful red fern had grown between two bodies. The story went on to say that only an angel could plant the seeds of a red fern, and that they never died; where one grew, the spot was sacred.”

And at this point in the second grade, I was sitting at my desk an absolute puddle of devastation. This happened again in the fifth grade. And it happened again when I finally read the book for the first time last week. Thinking back, this book had a profound impact on my life. One of my only memories of second grade was watching this movie. I have professed my hatred for this book many times over the years, and yet here I am again. What is wrong with me? That’s rhetorical the truth is: this story is beautiful. Horribly sad? Yes. Gruesome? Yes. But Billy (who I have only referred to so far as the boy for reasons I will make clear soon) is a boy from another time. He’s a hard worker. Cares deeply for his dogs, and is willing to sacrifice everything for them. Billy and his dogs have an uncanny ability to communicate their wishes to one another, and they are most comfortable in each other’s company.

 

 

“People have been trying to understand dogs ever since the beginning of time. One never knows what they’ll do. You can read every day where a dog saved the life of a drowning child, or lay down hi life for his master. Some people call this loyalty. I don’t. I may be wrong, but I call it love- the deepest kind of love.”

Old Dan and Little Ann are elevated in this story to the proportions of myth. They can do things no other dog can, and most uniquely of all, they seem to have real love for one another. They will not hunt alone, and they will defend one another to death, which of course, they achieve in the end.

I didn’t use Billy’s name during my synopsis, because although this is largely a coming of age novel, I believe it is the legend of two dogs that I haven’t been able to forget since first hearing their story in the second grade.

So Ann and Dan are out of this world- kind of dogs. To reiterate this point I created a list comparing my dogs to them. Now, you may think, “that’s not fair! Ann and Dan are fiction! That’s like expecting a hero from a romance novel to actually exist!” Well, true, but I think after seeing the list  you’ll understand why I felt compelled to compare the two sets of dogs.

We love you forever Dan and Ann!